I placed the monitors in my ears and shouldered my backpack for an afternoon’s hike through the local foothills. I’d decided that processing a solid slab of metalcore as I trekked would be a great escape on my day off. After all, metalcore is now a genre with a quality history, breeding a rich pedigree of talented musicians with socially minded and contemplative lyrical content. Surely, I couldn’t go wrong with a metalcore album? Boy, was I mistaken. Only a kilometre into the hike, I simply couldn’t take Straight from the Barrio anymore. I ripped the in-ear monitors out in disgust as one would banish an annoying insect. Upon a Burning Body, what a disappointment!
Territorial pissings, dick-in-hand machismo, and chants about your post-code? Give me a break! I can’t relate to any of this subject matter, it all seems so superficial and narrow-minded. I mean, these are the kind of paradigms that lead to wars. The amount of suffering that humans have inflicted on each other because SOMEONE drew a line in the sand is incalculable. But then again, maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe these guys are actually from a war-ravaged part of the world that has been blown to pieces on a daily basis? I mean, I could understand all this hatred and frustration if they came from Aleppo, Syria. Let’s check, nope, they’re from San Antonio, Texas.
The irony of all this is that Danny, Ruben, Rey, and Sal are actually great musicians. Their riffs are cutting and explosive, their breakdowns are well chosen, and rhythmically they are a very tight unit. But the writing and lyrics are unavoidable. I simply could not make it all the way through this album, and I subsequently tried three times. After all, I’ve never dismissed a band purely because of it’s vocals before. But when vocalist Danny started moaning away in a very Nickelback-esque clean vocal sound on “Leave the Pain Behind,” I felt like all was lost. It was like revisiting the worst moments of Linkin Park. Actually, the lyrical highpoint of the album was the opening track “Till the Break of Dawn” when Danny is actually singing in Spanish. I couldn’t understand these lyrics, and thus I could just enjoy the music for what it was.
The first single from this album is “B.M.F.” which stands for Bad Mother Fucker. The music to this song is fantastic, and even the vocal phrasing and accentuation is just superb. The pre-verse is a tight molten ball of frenetic riffing, and the chugging pre-chorus is a real homage to the best of the genre. Really, this song should become a metalcore classic, but it just won’t.
“Y’all wanna tear this place up give me a hell yeah (hell yeah)
Y’all wanna burn this place down give me a hell yeah (hell yeah)”
What? That’s all you’ve got to say? The whole point of writing these superb metal riffs and neck-snapping breakdowns is to say THAT? No, this certainly will not do. Parkway Drive, Architects, and even young, evolving metalcore acts like In Hearts Wake have so much more credibility than this. My disappointment in this album was pervasive. I just could not get past how badly the lyrical content of this album was ruining perfectly good music. If I could give Upon a Burning Body one piece of advice, it would be this:
Take some time off from the hooch and look at your music with a clear mind. There must be SOMETHING meaningful that you want to say, surely? You are part of a special period in time and an excellent genre. Your musical abilities will not always be as potent as they are now. Make something meaningful, something that lasts, something with substance.
Written by Scott Andrews
*edited by Kate Erickson